Statistics Part II: Budget Expenditures & Nationalized Healthcare

August 11, 2009

So, in the comments of my February post You Call Those Statistics?, Clarisse raised the point that numbers shouldn’t be the issue, no-one-deserves-to-be-oppressed should be the issue:

the argument to dismantle gender expectations, cis privilege, et cetera should not be based on numbers/percentages of transpeople. I know that’s not necessarily what you’re saying, but I wanted to point it out — and to make a note that I think is just generally so important and worth repeating, viz: basing any argument against oppression on how many people are affected by that oppression means moving away from the central point (which should be “no one deserves to be oppressed”) and towards an unproductive numbers game.

Totally randomly, I noticed a post I’d bookmarked back in April that gets more to the point of one reason statistics and numbers matter, In Tough Economic Times, Transphobia Will Get Alberta Out of Debt.

Uppity Brown Woman quotes for the gist of the issue:

The Alberta government delisted funding for gender reassignment surgery this week, and trans activists are quickly organizing to push for the program’s reinstatement.

In Tuesday’s budget, the province announced it was cutting the GRS program to save $700,000 a year. Alberta plans to spend $12.9 billion on healthcare in 2009, according to figures released this week. The GRS program funded surgeries for between 10 and 20 people a year.

Since the program apparently only funds 10-20 surgeries per year, and given that $700,000 /10 = $70,000, or /20 =$35,000 which is just ever-so-slightly more than SRS really costs (17,000 CAD with Brassard, last I heard), I’m assuming that it covers hormones and counseling as well as is just being talked about as surgery ‘coz that’s what cis people understand. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

So, $700,000 sounds like a lot of money, right? I mean out of 12.9 billion that’s gotta be a chunk, right?
700k/12.9b = 0.00005426, or 0.005% of the budget. This is where statistics come in.

If trans people are 1 out of every 500 people, then it seems like 1/500th of the budget for healthcare is certainly not *more* than we deserve, likely less; similarly, if we’re 1 in 11,900 or 1 in 30,400 or 2 in (11,900+30,400). If the program covers hormones and counseling, and all forms of trans related bottom surgery, then it should be a pretty substantial percentage of our healthcare costs, regardless of whether or not it also includes FFS/top surgery/BA/electrolysis/binders/prostheses/etc.

12.9 billion CAD / 500 = 25.8 million CAD.
700,000 / 25,800,000 = 0.027, or 3 percent of our 1/500th of the budget.

I think it’d be pretty reasonable to say that SRS, and in particular hormones, counseling, and SRS combined, are worth 3% of the healthcare dollars allotted to the trans community. (Remember, those of you that are young and able/not-chronically-ill, that the amount spent per person per year goes up drastically with age, so that while hormones & counseling might be drastically more than what you and your temporarily-able-bodied 20-something friends spend on non-trans-related medical care, it’s a small fraction of what the average 70 year old spends. Those of us with disabilities or non-trans-related chronic illnesses will probably find 3% somewhat less shocking. This is in no way to minimize the huge burden of those already-economically-marginalized paying-out-of-pocket-as-if-uninsured-whether-or-not-you-are for care, which generally increases the cost by a factor of 5-10.)

.51/30,400 + .49/11,900 = 21,335
12.9 billion CAD / 21,000 = 614,285.
700,000/610,000 = 1.147, or 110% of the budget that would be reserved for our population if our healthcare needs were 100% average.

Now, our healthcare needs ARE above average, and that’s OK, and if these figures were correct (which they’re not, duh) it still wouldn’t justify “delisting” the services as if we were taking everyone’s money and running with it. However, I think the difference between denying us 3% of what’s due to the average person and denying us 110% should be pretty clear; with bad statistics, aided by the “10-20 surgeries per year”, this seems like an exorbitant amount of money to spend per person, but with better stats, it shows the action for what it is–throwing our life vests overboard on a ship in danger of sinking “to save weight.”


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